So Long Berfrois, and Thank You for Everything


Moriz Jung, Editor’s Conservation With a Statesman, 1907

by Adam Staley Groves

Over a decade ago I became affiliated with Berfrois. Previously I had joined the editorial team of continent., an academic, open access journal still active today. There I published part of my research on what I termed ‘media hagiography’ developed through The European Graduate School. The article “The Return of Walter Benjamin’s Storyteller: Ronald Reagan as the Incorruptible Saint of Political Media” was republished by Berfrois in October of 2011. It was my first of several publications with Berfrois.

I was pleased for some casual syndication and sought to develop my ideas over the years. Berfrois gave my alchemy a chance to develop. Overtime I mixed political journalism and progressive politics with philosophic theory, namely the concepts of poetry and then, more toward poetry and the relationship it shares with technic. So within the pages of Berfrois is a bit of my own bildungsroman, as it were.

If this writer experienced a ‘coming of age’ with Berfrois it depended on what Berfrois permitted to publish. You see, I am not really satisfied with the conventional or pragmatic concept of ‘writer’. For me writing is a means to understand the human not purely to instruct vivaic meat. That one’s understanding to be shown. Yet there’s the writer in proporia persona and honestly, that was part of the point.

I am not saying instruction is meaningless. I am saying understanding has been perturbed. The migration of understanding into writing, into a technology which promises eternity, was partly a muse. Clearly there were times I sought to instruct whomever bothered to read in that way. That’s another way of saying pragmatic concerns were assumed and sought; that the writing is as honest as the publisher. At base Berfrois permitted an artistic form of thought to be put on display. Maybe it was a bit mad to do so? Sometimes it was frightening. But it wasn’t mad because the matter concerns not only the personality of the writer and the object we find this personae within, it concerns reading.

By reading what is meant here? There are so many ‘readers’ out there. And then there are readers of art, poetry, literature, and interneted things. It is not a matter of retrospect to say the writing I did for Berfrois was pressing the reader to rethink their reading. That every reader is a bit of a critic and that most critics desire something in the objects they ensnare with their heads. And simply the head, as if nerves were the origin of feeling. If there was an agenda it was nearer to sufficiency and in the making, felt like pure necessity. It’s not that I expect anyone to learn that or tout it. One knows it when they experience it because – and this is the point of pointlessness – they know it without knowing how. Thus for some it seems pointless. This is particular to those who use indifference to hide. Nonetheless, seeds in the soil.

That reads like a bit of an apology for ecclectic writing. If so please read Poe’s Eureka! Yet ecclectic writing seems more real, that writing took place on my terms. Thus I feel very strongly the work will endure and continue to disclose a potency if only to a few and then, only to me. But it is not potency as choice. We are subject to the historical pressures of our time and then some. Writing is simply the diaper of the soul. And we are all writing whether our heartbeats are measured by an Apple watch and sold to companies who provide health product vouchers or other forms of surveillance capitalism which maps out choice ahead of one’s self.

I mention such in consideration of where things are seemingly going. If we consider the growth of progressive journalism by virtue of “Breaking Points” and associated journalist, I’d say we’ve come a long way. If we consider the prowess of Lex Fridman’s podcast and figures like Joe Rogan, I’d say we are headed in a better direction. None of this really existed in 2010. That is, intellectual thinking and the subsequent future of bildungen, and of understanding, is not only on display but visibly underway. The desire to think is irrepressible; part and parcel of natural force.

Conversely wokism and digitally enhanced authoritarianism continues on. It is my reflection that – in the contemporary – we have yet to earn the luminations we fight for in terms of the public. And yet, to call it a fight invites heroics or would-be heroes. The fight is first a feeling. The reward is ever-only self-evident. The self-aware either accepts or excepts it for that self. And within it there are multitudes of the one, in time.

In the backdrop of the ego are perhaps, principles. For me these are usually immutable. The horror of our time is the crisis of the practical act, that is, practices assumedly based from principles. This has long been a subject of private thought for me, that one’s practices could debase if not destroy one’s principles. I suppose it is a philosophical concern particular to epistemology or one’s knowledge. Yet here I am thinking of something before permitted knowledge. What knowledge is allowed and, if in the open, called forbidden by one or a group? There are many systems to get to the utmost deep (if not vague) truth of it – government, party, religion, nation, and allegiance. Yet these are merely platforms to describe the single principle which will always only be described not wholly eviscerated. And because it is described, it will always be two things at once, not ever ‘it’. No different than a feeling which inevitably is named this or that emotion.

What then is the unifying platform of a description or that which institutes difference? In early writing for Berfrois I took to describe this as hagiography and its players – Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Andrew Brietbart, et cetera. I did so with the good theory of Europe and the United States; with the modernist Podunk of a guy from Eastern Iowa. I made the general point it was a consequence of media and technology. A decade later everything we know is being described by natural language processing or AI. And as we linger without an adequate understanding of human general intelligence, people are already conceding AGI or artificial general intelligence.

Such illustrates the state of relation between principle, a single principle and the act. It’s a damn ancient concern indeed! However, the relational field itself is being defined. After all that is what writing premises its authority upon, that somehow, in that technology of writing, there is relation to a single thing. If we can learn to feel it – not merely drink up rhetorical onces or pose as learned critics and consumers – we may happen to be satisfied.

Yet the parting concern here is the definition of relation. No matter what intellectual affiliation one has, relation is primary. Where levity was once possible, few people seem to understand the word in a practical sense. Elevation is a chase, climbing to the top of as if an authority. To control information has to carry, from within the controller, the concession of fear. Fear replaces desire, at least to my speculation, which is a depletion of one’s connate relation with nature if not the imagination itself.

About the Author

Adam Staley Groves is a university educator, writer and artist residing in Singapore. He has published two books of poetry and written essays on artists such as Ren Hang and Ruben Pang.

Image Rights

Jung‘s postcard is in the public domain. Thanks to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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